Microbial cell factory – proof-of-concept strain

Vanillin (4-hydroxy-3-methoxybenzaldehyde) is the main molecule responsible for the delicious and delicate flavour and aroma we know as vanilla. Found in nature in the seedpods of the Vanilla orchids and known to man for centuries, vanilla is one of our favourite food flavouring ingredients, as well as a popular fragrance in cosmetics. Humans have cultivated vanilla-producing orchids since the 15th century, but despite this long experience, cultivation methods are still hugely labour intensive. Add the low yield of the crop and the high market demand, and it is no wonder that natural vanilla is extremely expensive.   

Soon after vanillin was firstly isolated in the late 19th century, chemical synthetic production routes were discovered and synthetic vanillin has dominated the vanilla market ever since. However, lately consumers are becoming more aware and demanding of the foods they eat, the cosmetics they put on their skin, and the ingredients that these products are composed of. This has increased the demand for naturally sourced vanilla – a demand that simply cannot be met by vanilla orchid farming.

Although the complex and aromatic flavour of natural vanilla does not come from vanillin alone, as an ingredient vanillin does provide that vanilla touch that is so greatly appreciated in foods and cosmetics. Since natural vanilla from vanilla beans cannot satisfy the market demand, we need an alternative, more natural or nature-like production method for vanillin. Vanillin that is produced via fermentation qualifies to be labeled as natural. 

EV’s vanillin: EV is developing a microbial vanillin-producing strain with high yields that allows price competition with synthetic vanillin, while eligible for labelling as natural flavour or fragrance.